Puerto Rico has long been a top destination for sandy beaches and cool ocean breezes, history, art, and culture. While the capital of San Juan gets most of the glory, the island's second largest city of Ponce deserves its own share of the spotlight. For those ready to venture farther south from San Juan, here's what you can do once you get to Ponce.
1. Carve out a day at Museo de Arte de Ponce.
The Museo de Arte de Ponce ($6) is the Caribbean's largest art museum and is widely considered to be among the finest cultural institutions in the Americas. Here, find one of the largest private collections of European art in all of Latin America, in addition to 4,000-plus permanent pieces from between the 14th and 20th centuries, and work by international artists. You can easily spend at least a couple of hours wandering through the fourteen galleries and outdoor gardens.
2. Take a trip to Plaza Las Delicias.
Although the plaza is technically made up of two smaller squares, this impressive space is home to Colonial architecture and the striking Parque de Bombas, which was formerly a firehouse. The building is a standout -- with bold red and black stripes and a unique architectural style that combines Moorish and Gothic Victorian elements. Now the site of a small museum, it's worthy of a visit to get a deeper understanding of the city’s history. Plaza Las Delicias also features the Lions Fountain, statues, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral.
3. Order mallorca bread for breakfast.
Mallorca bread -- a fluffy, eggy roll topped with powdered sugar -- is a must while you're in Puerto Rico. It's best to get it first thing in the morning; you can find it at any panadería (local bakery) for around two bucks. If you're in the Plaza las Delicias area, try Melao Coffee Shop for mallorca bread stuffed with ham, egg, and cheese, alongside a cup of fragrant Puerto Rican coffee.
4. Stroll along La Guancha Paseo Tablado.
Ponce may not be famous for its turquoise waters or sandy coastline, but you’ll be impressed when you head to La Guancha Paseo Tablado, a boardwalk just south of downtown. We love it for a pleasant jaunt to take in the tropical sunshine, as well as for grabbing some street food from the local vendors.
5. Visit Castillo Serrallés.
Situated on a hill overlooking the city of Ponce, Castillo Serrallés ($13) awes visitors with its unique Spanish Revival style. Now operating as a museum, the beautiful mansion and gardens offer a glimpse into the history of the sugar cane and rum production in Puerto Rico.
6. Cool off with homemade ice cream.
If you need a respite from the hot tropical weather, head into King’s Cream, located opposite the Parque de Bombas. The storefront of this frozen treats parlor itself may not call much attention, but the long line of people eager to cool down will certainly pique curiosity. Locals love King’s fresh fruit-flavored ice cream, ranging from coconut and papaya to mango and passion fruit.